So it actually happened…

2 weeks ago today, Brexit actually was not far off becoming a reality. Staying up on the evening of the 23rd June to see the first result come in, I wasn’t really sure what I was going to wake up to on the 24th. The final poll I looked over earlier that afternoon suggested that Remain was in favour to win, albeit narrowly. The results from Gibraltar came in at 96% Remain, which was to be expected, but as Newcastle’s results came in just after midnight, Remain’s lead was not as high as hoped. This didn’t look good. If expected Remain strongholds were coming in lower than expected already, Remain seemed to be losing ground early on, and the counting had only just begun. With work the next day, I couldn’t pull an all-nighter, so I set my alarm for 6am – an hour before the official result was expected – and settled in for the night.

Waking at 5.30am, my mind obviously sensed I was going to need a little more time to get ready for work based on the news we were waking to. Reaching out to check my phone, my boyfriend was already 2 steps ahead – ‘Do you want to know the answer?’ I thought I already had the verdict, but I wasn’t 100%. ‘I think I know’. Opening the laptop to get the live coverage of the results, confirmed what we thought we knew. I was in total shock. Leave had essentially won, and in a hour that would be official.

Never have I felt such a reaction to the result of an election – my stomach dropped. I was in complete shock. I always knew it would be close, and at 52%/48% it was, but I had hoped those final polls would be right and that Remain would edge a small victory. I was expecting us to have to come to terms with an almost 50/50 split of the electorate, as per my last post before the referendum, but still, the shock that the result was in and official hung over me all of Friday, the weekend, and to a certain extent, it continues to do so now.

I guess this isn’t exactly a unique story. In fact, the shock and surprise we have seen over the past two weeks only highlights how no one really thought it would happen. It seems Boris Johnson chanced his arm on the Leave side. He could then sweep in, become MP and toe the Eurosceptic line, or whatever line he had decided on for that week. It seems as if the entire Leave campaign was in shock that they actually won, as demonstrated by their complete lack of a plan since the results came in. Yet it also seems the Remain campaign was also in a similar position.

I was never a fan of the official Remain campaign’s efforts, if I am honest – I agreed with them, of course, but I really think they missed the mark in making a great case for the Remain side. In fact, I actually unsubscribed from their mailing list a couple of weeks before the referendum because their emails were so uninspired in the lead up to polling day. The campaign failed to capture the minds of the public, too focused on the economics behind the vote to Remain. The official StrongerIn campaign failed to convince and compel, and certainly could have been stronger in its message.

It has been a busy couple of weeks since the results came in. We have seen David Cameron, Boris Johnson, many shadow ministers, and now Nigel Farage quit their respective positions. The contest for leadership of the Conservative party continues, the UKIP contest will soon start, and then there are the actual negotiations with the European Union and the triggering of Article 50. Added to this, we see Sinn Fein calling for a discussion on a United Ireland, Nicola Sturgeon opening up debate on the future of Scotland, and even Wales questioning its role in the UK. Gibraltar is also left wondering where it stands now, as are the 48% who voted Remain, and lost by 4%. The EU citizens living in the UK, and the UK citizens living in the EU, including myself, are wondering where they stand too. The results have opened up a rift in the UK – a deep chasm has formed – a lot of the pressures were, of course, there before the referendum, and I assume whichever way the result went, it was always going to widen. There are many, many unanswered questions and the future is uncertain right now. We need to work together to find solutions, and to minimise adverse impacts across the board. The increase in racial attacks needs to be bought under control immediately, as this referendum cannot be seen to legitimise racism that has been boiling under the surface.

I am very disappointed in the result. I feel distanced from ‘home’, and I certainly don’t feel proud.

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Europe on a turning point?

 

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2016 has been a busy year for member states of the EU, and it doesn’t look like it is going to calm down any time soon. Austria recently voted for their new president (a largely ceremonial role), but with 0.6% between the winning independent/former Green Party candidate Van der Bellen (50.3%) and far-right FPÖ (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs – Austrian Freedom Party) Hofer (49.7%), the election was too close to call until the postal votes were counted. While we can rejoice at the fact that Austria will not have Hofer, a man who carries a gun for ‘protection’ due to increased migration and threatened to use the (limited) powers he would have had as president to their full extent by potentially dissolving parliament, we must also consider the fact that 49.7% of the Austrian electorate voted for him. The country was quite literally divided down the middle, and while Van der Bellen may have secured the role in the end, we cannot ignore the fact that such huge numbers supported, and continue to support Hofer’s ideologies.

The Austrian presidential election isn’t the start however, and it certainly isn’t the end either. Europe has been seeing a shift – some might say a lurch – to the right recently. In Germany, AfD (Alternative für Deutschland – Alternative for Germany) received 24.3% of the vote in the local elections (2016) in Saxony-Anhalt, 15.1% in Baden Württemberg and 12.6% in the Rheinland-Palatinate. Their membership numbers continue to rise and currently stand at around 20,000 – this is all for a party that was formed in 2013 on a largely EU-sceptic message. Since then the AfD has turned ever more to the right, as seen in their most recent manifesto and its outward islamophobia.

This year has also seen Sweden and Denmark reintroduce border controls in response to the migrant crisis, while Denmark  also approved policy to seize belongings from migrants entering the country over the value of 10,000 DKK (around €1,344). The Dansk Folkeparti (Danish People’s Party) grew to be the second largest in last year’s election, jumping from 12% to 21% over the period of just four years, while in Sweden the Sverigedemokraterna (Sweden Democrats) recently polled at 24.5%, making it the largest party in the country. Like the AfD and the FPÖ, they both oppose immigration and multiculturalism in their respective countries. The UK has seen similar with the somewhat slower success of UKIP (UK Independence Party) toeing a similar party line to the above mentioned parties. The fear of immigration has largely dominated the campaign leaflets, slogans and speeches in the build up to the UK’s EU membership referendum tomorrow (23rd June). Across the Channel, France has seen the steady rise of Marine Le Pen of the Front National, while the Netherlands has Geert Wilder of the Partij Voor De Vrijheid (Party for Freedom) spreading a similar message of intolerance, ignorance and a desire to look after ones ‘own’ before others. 

Tomorrow is a big day for the UK, its closest neighbours, the EU and in all honesty, the world. The campaign has been vicious – focusing on immigration, the economy and… immigration. The EU is by no means perfect, but to throw our toys out of the pram when the going gets tough is hardly the answer, nor a solution. The Leave campaign seems to be plagued by an old world view of the UK and its former empire. Like Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’, there is a harking back to a time that for some were the ‘glory days’ – the days when the sun never set on the British Empire. Personally, I am of the opinion that colonialism isn’t something to be celebrated, but for others it seems to be a tough pill to swallow that the UK cannot bark orders as part of a union (as a side note, it seems to be forgotten that while the EU is a union, the UK plays a heavy role in the decision making process and continues to carry substantial weight behind it as a key player). I certainly hope that Friday brings the news of a vote to remain in the EU – it would be sad to see the UK turn its back on the EU as a project, and as a union.

Sadder still is the prospect of further exit referenda in the near future – if the UK does decide to leave, it will place the future of the EU as a whole on thin ice at a time when all member states need to pull together. Alongside the rise of right wing parties across many member states, we face an interesting chapter in the as-yet-unwritten future of Europe.

(I do not own the rights to this image)

The Impact of (Re)acting

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Tuesday 27th May 2014. 2 days since the ballot boxes for the European Elections were closed after 4 consecutive days of voting across the EU. I would say 2 days since the dust has settled from the results, but I sense that the dust is still a long way from reaching the ground. For me, stemming from the UK, UKIP’s victory struck a particularly strong chord, but as the results rolled in from France, Denmark, and the remaining countries where far-right gains were palpable, I realised this worrying gain was something that was affecting Europe as a unit.

If I am truly honest, I can’t say that I am all that surprised. Rhetoric in the UK has been particularly anti-EU for a while now and a referendum has been on the cards. Now, the main shock is that we are edging ever closer to the referendum becoming a reality. With the EU elections behind us, hurdle number 1 is down, hurdle number 2 (the general election in 2015) is fast approaching, and as the mood worsens, this is an ever-growing concern.

If these turnout figures show us anything, it’s apathy. While the UK didn’t have the lowest turnout (by far), a rate of between 20-30% is still nothing to shout from the rooftops about. In fact, this figure represents between 12.7 and 19.1 million people (based on 63.7 million people in the UK). This in turn suggests that a huge proportion of the population either simply did not care about the election, or didn’t want to/didn’t manage to register to vote. Then, of course, there are the people who withheld their vote out of protest. On the other hand, in the last general election 65.1% of people turned out to vote. Bearing these figures in mind, it could be argued that UKIP’s victory can simply be accounted to the fact that UKIP voters, angry at the EU, turned out in force to vote, dominating the polls and sending out shockwaves as the votes began to be counted.

Of course, even if this is an explanation, this victory shouldn’t be cast aside. Seeing this result mirrored across other member states only enforces the message that Europe isn’t happy. We are now entering a crucial stage, where reforms must be discussed. The EU is by no means perfect, but it also should not be allowed to collapse. The UK, in particular, now enters a turbulent time in the build up to the general election and the referendum on Scottish Independence. The mainstream political parties need to rebuild trust with the voting public, and the EU needs to rework itself to ensure its future. It would be a great shame to see the UK and Europe descend into crisis, for the Right to take a hold on national governments and for the intolerant to grasp at power.

(I do not own the rights to this image)

Equal Marriage?

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This weekend the ‘UK’ became the 8th state in Europe to legalise same-sex marriage, placing it in a small group alongside Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Spain. While this is a historic moment, and certainly one to celebrate no matter what your view point on marriage as an institution, it is also a moment to reflect on the progress that has been made, and most importantly, on the progress still to be made.

It is pretty striking that only 8 nations in Europe offer full marriage equality. These countries are more or less neighbours and form the Western section of Europe. It is, however, slightly misleading to consider the UK as a nation of full marriage equality, considering that the law passed only covers England and Wales. Scotland will allow same-sex marriages from Autumn this year onwards, and Northern Ireland does not foresee a discussion in the near future. This is not something unusual, and is in fact similar to the stalemate that Germany finds itself in today.

Marriage equality is, most importantly, not the only yardstick to measure equality by. Legislation counts for one half, but the other half must be counted against public attitude and day-to-day life. While it is great that same-sex couples can marry in a country where it was a crime to even be gay 47 years ago, it is crucial to remember that same-sex couples do not necessary feel safe to behave in public as a straight couple might. Homosexuals still have to consider coming out over and over again, and wonder if it will effect their life at work and other aspects of their daily routine.  Homosexuals are still beaten up and attacked in acts of homophobic violence. Of course, these are problems that affect different people in different areas on numerous levels, but even at a base level, homosexuals still have to endure name-calling, heckling and snide remarks. While marriage equality is a huge step in the right direction, until suicide rates, hate crimes levels and the above listed significantly drop, there is still a lot to fight for. Away from home, and around the world there are plenty of much larger issues and more dangerous circumstances that we must bear in mind. We have not reached a stage where we can rest on our laurels.

Various recent examples include:

On the topic of marriage equality: BBC – “Fifth of Britons would turn down invitation”

On whether ‘marriage equality’ is even a valid term: Buzzfeed – “6 ways the UK still doesn’t have marriage equality”

Perhaps the most powerful presentation of the reality of discrimination: Panti’s Noble Call 

(I do not own the rights to this image)

 

Sexual Healing

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Sex education. This phase probably conjures up various emotions and flashbacks. Sex education holds a certain air of taboo, a definite sense of embarrassment and (should) hold a huge amount of importance. Secondary school is, on most levels, pretty horrendous. Add sex ed to the mix of hormones and you are bound to make a class of spotty teenagers go red. However, despite all this ’embarrassment’ (see, I can put I speech marks now) sex ed has a very serious and important role, with what could be a life changing message. This is, of course, if it is done properly.

We had a very enthusiastic teacher for our sex ed class at school and while we thought this was hilarious in that did-she-just-say-that kind of way, and while she was probably the most thorough of the bunch, she and the science teachers who gave us more of an anatomical view, didn’t really, now I come to think of it cover that much. Boys, put the condom on a dummy. Check. Girls, take the pill. Check. (This combo, she called ‘Double Dutch’ – something that still baffles me now.) Make sure you are ready speech. Check. And then, it was pretty much back to personal hygiene ‘lessons’. Sex ed, much like most first sexual experiences, over in 60 seconds.

Recently sex ed has been discussed in the House of Lords, which I am sure got many of them very hot under their Savile Row collars. Surprise, surprise – they voted against making sex education mandatory in primary and secondary school. 209 t0 142 voted against, in fact. Included in this bill was the mandatory inclusion of hetro- and homosexual sex education. Now, like I said before, school is horribly humiliating for many, and queer kids don’t get it any easier. Sure you might get some puerile comments from the back of the class when the teacher starts explaining the ins and outs of anal sex, but I think a lesson’s worth of discomfort is worth it compared to the potential side effects of unprotected sex.  Teenage pregnancy is down on last year according to the NHS, but considering we already had a rate that overshadowed the rest of Europe, this in no way means we are tackling the issue as well as we could. HIV/AIDS infections have seen an increase in recent years despite a decline in the last decade. While thorough and inclusive sex education may not have a direct effect on these numbers, they can only help. Knowledge is power, as the saying goes. Considering the fact that homosexual sex is rarely (I could even say barely) covered in your typical sex education lesson, any inclusion could only be of benefit. Addressing homosexuality in sex education and citizenship classes can only help in exposing school children to the world outside their school grounds. For pupils struggling with their sexuality, this could only help in offering recognition and inclusion. For pupils struggling with other people’s sexualities, this could only help in opening their minds.

With David Cameron’s ‘porn filter’ in full operation, blocking safe content across the land, teenagers now have limited access to sex education online. How many teenagers do you know, that would be willing to ask certain ’embarrassing’ questions in class? I mean the pupils who really want the answer, not the pupils looking for a laugh. This block affects all teenagers looking for advice, and there have been reports of this filter blocking advice websites and sites with gay content. While I can see that internet forums and the like can be damaging for an impressionable teenager looking for answers, I believe that blocking on a keyword basis is not the way forward.

In a final piece of news from the Houses of Parliament, certain Conservative backbenchers want to introduce restrictions on HIV+ migrants entering the UK. While only 16 MPs have signed so far, this is an alarming development. Something that only stands to support the vilification and stigmatisation of whose with HIV further.

It’s about time the government took sexual health seriously with a contemporary mindset, instead of the outdated opinions of the House of Lords.

The Debate Surrounding The Veil

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I recently came across two articles regarding the debate surrounding the veil, one by the Berliner Morgenpost (Germany) and one in the Guardian (UK), and I was intrigued that both the German and the British press were discussing this on the same day. The Morgenpost article reports on a Berlin judge’s decision to ban a female lawyer from wearing a headscarf (or ‘hijab’) in court, while the Guardian article considers the ‘niqab’.

First things first, let me clear up the difference between the ‘hijab’, the ‘niqab’ and the ‘burqa’ (also spelt ‘burka’). The ‘hijab’ is commonly referred to as a headscarf and covers a woman’s hair and shoulders/chest, leaving her face exposed. The ‘niqab’ refers to a veil that covers the entire face and leave only the eyes visible (as pictured above). This is not to be confused with a ‘burqa’ (which it often is), as a ‘burqa’ is especially loose and features a thin cloth section over the eyes.

There are so many different arguments surrounding this issue it is difficult to know where to begin. From the articles, we can see that, even from the surface, this issue is hugely contentious and very current. The German article, is, to my mind, more contentious as it merely regards the ‘hijab’, which is much less controversial than the ‘niqab’ or the ‘burka’ – Full veiling of the face, raises many more questions. The judge argues that a court of law is a neutral ground where the law is in place without the influence of personal beliefs. This is an interesting sentiment considering that Germany is far from a secular state. The Government is (currently) represented by a Christian party (the CSU, or the Christian Conservative party), the church is still entwined with the tax system (there is still a Kirchensteuer of between 8-9% of income)  and shops still close on a Sunday to observe the Sabbath. Furthermore Article 4 of the Federal Constitution (‘Grundgesetz’) claims:

“1. Freedom of faith and of conscience, and freedom to profess a religious or philosophical creed, shall be inviolable. 2. The undisturbed practice of religion shall be guaranteed.”

This raises questions regarding the ruling made by the judge and furthermore raises issues regarding bias towards Christianity. It also raises questions regarding the fine line between integration and assimilation – what happens if you live in a predominately Christian country, or in a predominately Muslim country? How far should people expect you to integrate? And furthermore, in the interest of freedom of choice and individuality, how far should you be willing assimilate?

From this more questions arise, as we start to consider who decides if a woman wears a veil in the first place? It is a personal choice, social and religious pressures, or patriarchy?

From all of these questions we see that there isn’t one simple answer, and this means there shouldn’t be one simple solution. One thing is for certain – a general ban is not the answer, as we have seen from France in recent years. You can’t speak for every woman who wears a veil, whether she chooses to, or not and for these reasons it seems unlikely that these stories will change in the near future.

Recently, I wrote about Wadjda – the first film to be fully recorded in Saudi Arabia. This film raises interesting questions about the veil and the role of women in this Islamic State, and most significantly the influence men have on the women in this state. It is a very interesting film and I would highly recommend it, particularly because it comes from within Saudi Arabia and therefore avoids the distortion of a Western view on the issues that arise.

As the Guardian article points out, discussions in the UK so far seem to have left Muslim women out and have instead decided to speak for them and about them, without allowing them to express an opinion or a counterargument. If something is to be discussed, both sides should be represented. It is ironic that parliamentary discussions talk of the repression of women, and the lack of a female voice as reasons for a ban, while promoting a repression of women through the discussion of the topic by disconnected parties.

(I do not own the rights to this image)

Die Qual der Wahl

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So the German general elections are just a week away and Berlin (and the rest of the country, I’m sure) has been covered by thousands of Plakate in various shapes and sizes and with varying degrees of cliche. Germany is big on election posters, much more so than the UK and they adorn every free lamp post (even in side streets) and every patch of grass by the side of the road – then, of course there are the billboards. I thought I would include a selection of a few that are around, and highlight their pros and cons.

Now, while I may not stand in agreement with Angela Merkel’s social policies, she is currently pulling a head of the other parties significantly and does have her mainly successful leadership for the past 8 years, plus her handling of the EU and Euro crisis on her CV. Furthermore, she is seemingly the only candidate with a chance currently. While the SPD has a lot of pulling power, Peer Steinbrück seems to let the side down, particularly after his now infamous appearance on the cover of Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazine.

The above image shows one of CDU‘s campaign posters – this is my particular favourite because it is completely transparent in its ‘actual’ and ‘attempted’ message. The party, who’s image is wholly based on Christian conservative beliefs, is trying to show that social policy is important to them too – most likely in an attempt to appeal to those undecided between SPD and CDU. The tagline claims “Every family is different, yet equally important to us”. All well and good so far. Then you see the image. A white, middle class family bonding over making breakfast. The only thing that doesn’t make this a complete stereotype is that the father is cooking, letting his wife take the day off. How modern. This image is perfect for a CDU campaign, its the headline that is misplaced and essentially reads, “every white, middle class family is slightly different, yet equally important to us”. Here we can see the dilemma surrounding election campaigns – do you alienate your base or try to appeal to new voters. The CDU know as well as everyone else that they hold a strong lead and therefore they are focusing on appealing to their base. This poster alienates anyone who doesn’t stem from a ‘nuclear family’ and excludes immigrants (1st, 2nd and every other generation), and anyone who isn’t heterosexual, for a start.

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The SPD (Germany’s social democrats) also went for an obvious photo shoot and slogan combination – which tends to focus more on policy plans, as opposed to the CDU, who have focused more on successes in the past two terms and vague slogans alluding to family policy and economic growth. On the whole, I quite like the SPD campaign, and generally prefer policy suggestions as opposed to empty words and pats on the back. While the mother and the daughter are clearing playing to cliches here, at least it is more realistic and inclusive than the CDU‘s image.

The FDP (Germany’s free democrats who are business heavy) are sinking rapidly and are currently hovering around the 5% mark, and could fall below, meaning they wouldn’t even be allowed into the Bundestag. For this reason, and because their posters are nothing special, I am going to move on to die Grünen/Bündnis 90. The Greens have mainly gone for a lot of word play and images of ‘friendly looking locals’

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Here the Greens are highlighting their parental and family policy with the headline “my mum will be the boss” and their slogan “and you?” features on every poster in the hope to make the people on the street feel involved.

Some of the best posters on offer this year come from Die Linke, German’s left party. These posters are to the point, with only text and the logo to offer. They also highlight the parties policies and central beliefs. The poster below reads “Enough chatting! 10 Euro minimum wage now”. However some of the party’s posters are far too ideological, which in turn make the party look less credible.

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Finally we have the controversial NPD (Germany’s nationalist party) below. These images are recycled from the local elections back in 2009 and as racist as ever. The image speaks for itself, and the slogan reads “Have a good journey home”. Thankfully this party doesn’t hit the 5% mark and is unlikely to in this election. Their posters are erected to get a reaction and to create tension. They also open up a whole new issue regarding freedom of speech, democracy and ultimately the question as to whether they should be banned or not.

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The German general election is on Sunday 22nd September.

The Invisible Men (2012)

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Last night I watched The Invisible Men; Yariv Mozer’s polemic documentary about the situation of gay Palestinians inside Israel. The documentary follows the lives of three men, Louie, Abdu and Faris, who have escaped from the Palestinian territories across the border into Israel.

Tel Aviv is well known for its gay scene and relative equality compared to other Middle Eastern countries when it comes to homosexuality. Homosexuality is legal in Israel, and homosexuals enjoy much the same rights as in Europe. Equal marriage isn’t legal, however, and, of course Jerusalem is somewhat a special case when compared to Tel Aviv. Despite all this, this tolerance doesn’t extend to homosexual Palestinian refugees, and as a result they live their lives in fear of being sent back across the border into the Palestinian territories, where their families, friends and the police are often waiting to attack.

The documentary focuses on Louie, who has a noticeable scar on his face from when his father attacked him with a knife after finding out about his homosexuality. He has lived illegally in Israel for 10 years, mostly avoiding the police but occasionally being returned across the border. He meets with Abdu who has applied for humanitarian asylum in Europe. While this may seem like the logical option, this is a difficult decision to make. Applying for asylum in Europe is a long process with no guarantee. Furthermore, for these men, Europe is a world apart from the world they have grown up in. Obviously, they will be able to live openly as homosexuals in Europe in relative safety (the EU Fundamental Rights Agency survey has proved, however, that even Western Europe isn’t a utopia for gay rights and equality), but they will be alone and a long way from home. On top of this, they will experience a language barrier and it is unlikely they will return to Israel or the Palestinian territories any time in the near future. Louie doesn’t want to leave Israel. He was born there and has lived there this entire life, but a lack of an Israeli birth stamp and residency papers means that he cannot legally stay in Israel or apply for Israeli asylum.

This raises many, many questions. This film was only made possible because all three men ended up gaining asylum in Europe and as a result they are now safe from their families and the Israeli police force and the Magav (the border force). Politics is obviously a huge and contentious issue in this area of the world and it is something for which there is no clear and simple answer. Palestinian citizens need to be able to claim asylum in Israel on the basis of sexual discrimination in the Palestinian territories, however. Israel is progressive in terms of its policies concerning homosexuality, and as we see time and time again from Eytan Fox’s films (for example) gay Palestinians could live happy and safe lives in Israel just like homosexuals do from many other countries in the world. This would mean they would not have to leave the Middle East to find safety, and would solve a lot of the fundamental issues that face them everyday, or issues that they would face in Europe. Here Israel has the opportunity to become a safe-haven and model for rest of the Middle East on social reform and sexual equality. At the very least the police forces should be more understanding of the plight of these men, instead of simply seeing them as the Palestinian papers they hold.

This documentary is very moving, and can be difficult to watch at times. The stories these men tell, and the obvious fears they have are testaments to the inequalities of this world. There are many sub-issues that influence this particular problem (all of which are political) and it seems a crying injustice that these men should be returned to, what is essentially, their deaths on the grounds of their sexuality and their nationality. If we are to promote that all love is equal in the Western World then we need to think of our brothers and sisters all over the world that are discriminated against to the point of death on a daily basis.

Die Zeit newspaper in Germany recently ran a story on Palestinian gay men in Tel Aviv, which featured many heart-breaking stories of boys being pushed from pillar to post, back and forth across the border in a fight with the Israeli police and their families. One boy had been in Tel Aviv since he was a teenager; he was raped as a child but his father believed his rapist’s lies because of the position he held in their town. As a result, he punished his son, locked him up and physically and mentally abused him. When the boy finally managed to escape he crossed the border to Israel. Living in an abandoned bus station he was involved with drugs and lived in fear of the police. He once returned home, only to be attacked again by his family. The article, entitled Wir Kinder vom Busbahnhof (Us children from the bus station) is available here in full, if you speak German.

I can only assume there are only stories of male homosexuals in this situation in the press and on film because, as is often the case when homosexuals are persecuted, the (all too often) men in charge in these countries do not see lesbianism as a real threat for reasons that link back to misogynistic ideologies. Whereas male homosexuals are often seen, and portrayed in propaganda, as dangerous and ‘infectious’ bodies due to the penetrative nature of sex between men. There seems to be a belief that female sexuality is also not a threat because this is a ‘weak decision’ that can be changed by a man. Men are scared of other men that threaten their masculinity or patriarchy. For more information surrounding this, see research into the persecution of homosexuals in the Third Reich – particularly Richard Plant’s seminal text, The Pink Triangle. Ernst Röhm is a fine example of a gay man who became too powerful and was killed by the fears of his fellow party members.

Finally, the Israeli LGBT+ organisation can be reached here (in English and Hebrew) and they feature as helpers in the asylum process in Mozer’s documentary. More information about Mozer’s documentary can be found here.

(I do not own this image).

ILGA-Europe Rainbow Map – 2013

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The ILGA recently posted this ‘Rainbow Map’ to show which countries in Europe provide the best level of human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex residents. From the first glance I was surprised to learn that the UK provides the best human rights at 77% , compared to 66% for Norway, 65% for Sweden, 57% for Denmark and 60% for the Netherlands. I find this difficult to believe as the above 4 countries are well renowned for offering some of the best human rights to people across the LGBTUA+ spectrum.

Legislation doesn’t mean equality or human rights are adhered to and this is a pitfall of this graph. Results from the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights survey show just how high homo-/transphobia are in the Western world, despite misconceptions.

To see a larger version of the map click here. 

To see the results from the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights click here.

Ps. In an article entitled “Europa lebt die Diskriminierung” (Discrimination lives in Europe) Die Zeit discusses the above mentioned studies and concludes: “Such laws are great. However, at the end of the day, the new EU study shows that it’s not enough to declare equality in the law books. These laws have to actually come alive too.” This is a statement I wholeheartedly agree with as we learn time and time again that legislation is all well and go. Yet it means nothing unless everyone takes it into practise.

Taking legislation to the eXXXtreme?

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This may be a crass example but is this what Giorgione’s Sleeping Venus will look like once the EU has it’s way?

Firstly I would like to say before anyone gets on their high horse that I am not a misogynist, a sexist, a patriarch or anything else disgusting like that. I fully recognise there are issues in the porn industry and that both women and men are exploited. I would also like to point out that I am not an EU sceptic. SO…

Today news broke that the EU are planning to ban porn. All forms. Gone. Of course it is currently a ‘recommendation’ and it won’t have a legal binding to it necessarily, but the very fact that is it is to be discussed is worrying. This is another example of the state interfering with the private sphere. Now I realise that there are many issues with the world of porn and I also realise that there are good arguments for why it shouldn’t be readily available on the internet, but there are also many counter-arguments too.

Porn. Good or bad? Both, if we are being honest. Yes, it promotes negative messages about sexuality and human worth in some cases, but at the same time porn is, in a way, also relatively equal. The ministers suggesting this ban seem to believe that porn means a woman is exploited sexually and then this is posted online for the pleasure of some reclusive pervert. For some strange reason, the wealth of porn on the internet seems to have escaped their tunnel vision. Shock horror, men are in porn too. Sometimes there are even two, sometimes 20. Porn does not just exploit young women but also young men too. Men who go gay-for-pay because the wage is better than in straight porn, for example. Like everything in life there is more than one argument and more than one perspective and I certainly don’t believe that any of the ministers suggesting this ban have never seen porn in their lives. Just because some women are exploited by the porn industry (and they are, this is a fact), does not mean a blanket ban should be enforced. That is like saying some people use scissors as a weapon, so they should be banned. In fact, I got id’d for scissors today. I am 22. Tackling an issue with a piece of legislation is not the answer. This does not tackle the root of the issue. The state should be focussing on issues like child pornography, sexual abuse and sex trafficking. Not porn in general.

My main issue here is that the state wants to interfere with people’s private lives. What people do in their bedrooms, in front of their TVs, their laptops and their partners is not the business of the state unless something illegal is actually occurring. The argument that this is for the good of gender equality is laughable. How about the state looks at the woeful gender gap in the world of work? Not just in the divide in pay, but the lack of women in positions of power. How about the state, particularly here in the UK, looks at the woeful lack of women in politics? How about the state considers the inequality in parental leave, and marriage rights? Do you mean to tell me I can’t marry the man I love, nor can I watch porn and my best friends can’t have a job that equals mine in terms of pay and power because they have vaginas? I think the porn industry is the least of the issues here.

This would be a fundamental breech of the freedom of speech and expression, and would, if anything, only lead to an underground porn industry, which would be much more dangerous. Banning things only gives people incentive to find a way around it. Control and heavy handedness never did any world power any good in the end.

(I do not own this image)